Elin Eriksen Ødegaard, Director & Professor in Early Childhood Pedagogy from Western Norway University of Applied Sciences, lifts the lid on NORCHILD, a unique research school for early childhood education & care
The startup of the Norwegian Research School NORCHILD is a unique momentum in early childhood education & care (ECEC) history. NORCHILD pursues the provision of a world-class PhD training programme within early childhood research. Future leaders of the ECEC sector and scholars involved in early years teacher education (TED) will be trained in 21-century skills that will boost quality and encourage the development of dispositions that promote education for sustainability.
21st-century transferable skills
Children in the early years are curious and explorative. Their learning is embodied and playful. They need a safe place, a child responsive curriculum, and a nourishing environment with various activities and materials. They need to meet diversity, nature and technology. No profession knows this more than those trained within the field of ECEC and those researchers involved in the ECEC sector. As parents, educators, administrators, researchers and policymakers, we constantly intend to create environments that tap into building the 21st-century skills of critical thinking, collaboration, communication, creativity, technology literacy and social-emotional development, but wicked obstacles and paradoxes exist. NORCHILD prepare PhD candidates that work in these areas to go even deeper in understanding the impact of 21st-century skills and to work on own educational mindset and agency. The candidates are trained in taking on a future leadership role in this crucial aspect of education and life.
Levelling up research training through transferable skills
During recent decades, one of the fundamental problems impacting the domain of ECEC is inadequate doctoral training. In fact, research findings documenting the discontent within this area abound (Gradovski, 2020). A recent research evaluation of The National Research School for Teacher Education (NAFOL) clearly indicated that candidates studying ECEC missed a deeper focus on their field of research (Schwach et al., 2021). As a direct response to these challenges, NORCHILD’s vision is to reimagine and deliver a systemic approach to ECEC. NORCHILD will supplement its partner institutions’ own doctoral programmes, and candidates affiliated with the graduate school will complete their doctoral degrees at their own educational institutions.
Academic skills career mindsets are work-life relevant
The programme delivers courses in grant application writing courses for research funding, dissemination and research outreach, media communication skills, decision-making and innovation strategies, crisis and risk management skills, networking, etc. In the Courses on Demand (Transferable Skills), PhD candidates will take the initiative and submit their own course request by drafting a tentative syllabus and learning outcomes to acquire skills or training they currently lack access to. Options may range from methodological skills to digital teaching and learning competencies, academic writing and external funding schemes plus specialised or interdisciplinary topics that require different skillsets from diverse academic or work life backgrounds to facilitate their PhD trajectory. NORCHILD specialises in courses that explain new methods and approaches developed to increase interaction between academia and other societal actors through research training in co-creation research paradigms and towards agility in digital capability and skills. None of these courses or activities exist today.
Knowledge transfer & collaboration across institutions & sectors
NORCHILD will constitute an active network of academic supervisors, work-life mentors and researchers in TED research communities, as well as key personnel in Norwegian municipalities through the involvement of The Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities (KS) and the Kanvas Foundation. By setting up conditions for collaboration and a clear division of labour, all partners will share responsibility for the activities; the responsible partner will collaborate with at least one other Norwegian partner from academia and will invite at least one representative from the work-life sector for dialogue and response.
Also, internationally profiled scholars will be asked to support the courses. NORCHILD will be open to external candidates all over the world (by application), but the target groups are PhD candidates financed through the Research Council Norway’s (RCN) programme of public and private PhD, as well as candidates from partner institutions and other relevant academic institutions in Norway.
The Nordic model is up for debate
NORCHILD also creates a debate hub about Nordic ECEC, traditions and transformations. The Nordic countries share a welfare state model. There is an international interest by policymakers, educators, and scholars in how Nordic countries organise the education services of the youngest children. The ‘Nordic model’ of ECEC is associated with a holistic, children’s rights-based approach to pedagogy, grounded in democratic values (Urban et al., 2022; Ødegaard & Borgen, 2021). However, there are some minor variations between the Nordic countries regarding frameworks and evaluation of the individual child’s development (Urban et al., 2022). In an age of globalisation, cultural boundaries are blurred, and their relationship becomes necessary. One could question if there is such a phenomenon as ‘the Nordic model’? Childhood education can be seen as a sheltered world unto itself. Still, the realities of world crises, an increasingly diverse society, the higher awareness of the impact of climate and health concerns due to pandemics have given rise to an entirely new range of childhood experiences (Pramling Samuelsson et al., 2020; Ødegaard & Borgen, 2021).
An often-forgotten dimension in ECEC research is the experience and reality of nature literacy and being a child embodied in ecological conditions, such as temporal, bodily, geographical and generational phenomena (Oropilla & Ødegaard, 2021; Rudd et al., 2020). By raising these discussions, NORCHILD will elevate the relevance of Norwegian doctoral education through renewal.
Progress and results
The school will be in full operation for the first enrolment of PhD candidates in 2023. NORCHILD will enrol PhD candidates from 2023 to 2027. The hosts of the two research centres, KINDknow [BARNkunne], Western Norway University of Applied Sciences (HVL) and Filiorum, University of Stavanger (UiS), funded by the Research Council Norway (RCN), will give most of the ECT credit. Also, more partners will develop courses with credits (Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences, OsloMet, University of Agder and Norwegian University of Science and Technology. The on-site solution will facilitate strong network building, aligning international candidates and international guest lecturers with ongoing, year-round courses.
Gradovski, M. (2020). Choosing the best way to travel in an unknown landscape: PhD supervisors’ perspectives on their own learning in doctoral supervision. In: T. Barkatsas & T. M. (Eds.) (Eds.), Championing Cutting-Edge 21st Century Mentoring and Learning Models and Approaches (pp. 88–103). Brill Sense.
Oropilla, C. T., & Ødegaard, E. E. (2021). Strengthening the Call for Intentional Intergenerational Programmes towards Sustainable Futures for Children and Families. Sustainability (Basel, Switzerland), 13(10), 5564. https://doi.org/10.3390/su13105564
Pramling Samuelsson, I., Wagner, J. T., & Eriksen Ødegaard, E. (2020). The Coronavirus Pandemic and Lessons Learned in Preschools in Norway, Sweden and the United States: OMEP Policy Forum. Int J Early Child, 52(2), 129-144. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13158-020-00267-3
Rudd, J. R., Pesce, C., Strafford, B. W., & Davids, K. (2020). Physical Literacy – A Journey of Individual Enrichment: An Ecological Dynamics Rationale for Enhancing Performance and Physical Activity in All. Front Psychol, 11, 1904-1904. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01904
Schwach, V., Bergene, A., & Carlsten, T. (2021). Evaluering av Nasjonal forskerskole for lærerutdanning (NAFOL): Aktivitet og kvalitet. [Evaluation of National research School for TED: Activity and Quality. N.-r. 6.
Urban, M. H., Guevara, J., Semmoloni, C., Reikerås, E. K. L., Eidsvåg, G. M., & Sæbø, J. C. (2022). Nordic Approaches to Assessment and Evaluation in Early Childhood Education & Care. Nordic Ministries of Education.
Ødegaard, E. E., & Borgen, J. S. (2021). Childhood Cultures in Transformation: 30 Years of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in Action towards Sustainability. BRILL. https://login.galanga.hvl.no/login?qurl=https://brill.com%2fview%2ftitle%2f57906%3frskey%3dR3dBqw%26result%3d1
Norwegian Research School for Early Childhood Education (NORCHILD) (2022-2030) has received funding from Research Council Norway under the Grant Agreement no. 331793.
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